I have recently noticed a particular user who persists in

  1. Contributing very low-quality answers, and
  2. Refusing to typeset his responses correctly.

Regarding the first point, such answers are often likely deemed low-quality because they are very short and consistently lack insight (and this user has a propensity to post multiple short answers on a single question thread), but my reason for posting this question largely concerns point (2).

On several occasions, I have given this user the link to the standard MathJax tutorial. I mentioned that his contributions would be better received should he actually try to learn the standard medium of communication on this site (Note: This user has been a member for almost 3 years, with a spike in recent activity, and has contributed ~80 answers), but he refuses to do so and recently even explicitly stated that he will never learn MathJax. This is a problem.

I see this user's posts being consistently edited by some well-meaning MSE user(s), but I only see this as perpetuating the problem. Low-quality answers are edited and subsequently bump questions to the front page that otherwise should not be there. The whole situation is rather unfortunate, but what is to be done? Keep flagging and closing (the situation concerning this user's questions is not much better) as I have done? I can continue to do this, but I thought it time to post here to see what the MSE community thinks about this. Is there a possibility of an answer ban of some kind? Etc.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think that in general, refusal to use mathjax is more of a symptom than an underlying problem. It's a common thing with users who just want to post brief comment-style answers without explanation - whether they are motivated by an honest desire to help or a desire to show off or a desire to get a few points based on the fact that five downvotes cancel a single upvote. I'd focus on the more general issue of consistent low-quality contributions; perhaps flagging (with explanation) for a moderator to handle it would be more effective than comments and downvotes in this case... $\endgroup$
    – user296602
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ ... because if a user is consistently showing up in the low-quality post review and is not making any effort to improve after receiving pushback from the community, then I think it's time for the next level of action. $\endgroup$
    – user296602
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 20:41
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers Right--I have flagged for mod attention at least twice, and this past time I thought enough was enough. That "next level of action" you mentioned. But I wanted more of the community to weigh in. If I'm alone in feeling like this is a problem, then I'll let sleeping dogs lie, but I feel that is not the case for some people. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 20:55
  • $\begingroup$ @T.Bongers I think the length of my answers was a feature, not a bug. Textbooks often have a terse presentation which I liked, and making the user understand in order to follow is seen as an advantage. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 23:17
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ @Alephnull The following is a general statement, not a criticism of you in particular: Being able to present information in a neat and concise manner is a valuable skill. Being terse to the point of offering no explanation and missing key points in the answer is not a good skill. When this is combined with bad writing due to careless formatting, the outcome is even worse. $\endgroup$
    – user296602
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 23:24
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @PedroTamaroff That's a pretty flimsy reason to close this question. As I pointed out, I have already flagged this user's post (several actually). Yet the flag linked to is still pending yet it is almost 4 days after the fact? That is pretty weak. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 15:00
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A few more flags (and several others exist as well) that were deemed helpful yet nothing has seemingly been done in regards to "a call for moderator action." I posted this question here to gauge the pulse of the community, not call for moderator action. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


I've seen situations like this play out numerous times here on math.stackexchange, as well as on several other online communities I've been a part of over the past 15 or so years.

In my experience, the best response in these situations is to bring up the issue in a helpful/friendly manner, then let it go, fully accepting the possibility that you might not get your way.

It is amazing how effective this is. At first there is often some pushback, but if you just don't engage with the confrontation, then sometime later - it can be days, weeks, or even longer - seemingly out of the blue, they start to heed the advice. It's like magic.

In contrast, ordering someone to do things your way (even if your way is better) and escalating the conflict is not a very effective way to get people to change their ways. This forces them on the defensive - even if they cool down and realize that your way is better, now there is no way for them to gracefully back down. This is human nature.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Helpful, but I would like to clarify that this is not about ordering someone to do things my way but in a way that is deemed acceptable to members of the MSE community. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, if I am somewhat alone in feeling as I do, then I'll simply let it go (and I have let it go for quite some time now, but recently I thought it was getting to be ridiculous). $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 15:12

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